Dean of Students at The College Mary-Beth Cooper is leaving UR Dec. 3 to become Vice President of Student Affairs at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
The announcement was issued Wednesday afternoon in a press release by RIT President Albert Simone. UR officials learned of Cooper’s final decision Tuesday morning.
“Dr. Cooper brings a passion, vitality, commitment and focus to her job,” Simone said in the release. “While all of us are student advocates and work for the success of our students, Dr. Cooper will be RIT’s primary student advocate.
“I know that student spirit, loyalty, appreciation of and commitment to RIT will increase significantly as a result of Dr. Cooper’s leadership,” he continued.
Her official duties at RIT begin Jan. 2, 2002, but Cooper will spend the month of December familiarizing herself with RIT.
Cooper said her move was largely career based.
“I think that [career] track wise, my ultimate goal is to be president of a small college or university,” she said.
After initially applying for the position at RIT in July, Cooper was offered the job Friday and she accepted it Monday.
“When the RIT position became available, it was a nice opportunity [to enhance my career] without any difficulty to the rest of my life,” Cooper said.
“I won’t have to move my family,” she continued.
And, while the decision was made quickly, Cooper said that initially it was difficult to begin the process and apply for the position.
“I would have liked the RIT position to become available a year or two from now, but the reality is that positions like this only become available every so often,” Cooper said.
Cooper said she holds her experiences at UR closely, noting personal growth, and she acknowledged that she was a better person because she learned from the “diversity of the campus and from bright students who encouraged [her] to think outside the box.”
The move came only three months after Cooper assumed the role of Dean of Students at The College, filling most of the vacancy left by former Dean of Students Paul Burgett when he became Vice President, General Secretary and Special Adviser to the President.
“The period of adjustment will include people adjusting to their loss of us and I imagine that will give way to a period of anticipation for new faces who will fill that need,” Burgett said.
“It is not reasonable to assume that the most ideal career options will appear in the same institution,” he continued.
“It is a promotion. It’s an opportunity for her to run the show and I can see her desire to do that,” Burgett said. As Vice President, Cooper will report directly to Simone.
“She will basically have my position before I moved to Wallis Hall,” Burgett said.
“She came here with a set of professional goals and she has accomplished those goals,” Dean of The College William Green said. “And now she has an opportunity to advance her career and we wish her the best of luck.”
Until this summer, UR’s centralized structure was much like RIT’s, where the Dean of Students works with the entire institution. However, after UR moved to a more decentralized structure, Cooper was the Dean of Students for The College, not for the entire institution.
“I think that the new restructuring is optimal, but it impacted the opportunities [for me] that were present here,” Cooper said.
Cooper’s role as Associate Provost will also be vacated.
Her university-wide responsibilities include overseeing the functions of University Health Services and the International Students Office.
“We’ll miss her. She’s been terrific,” Provost Charles Phelps said. “She will see a new set of challenges and opportunities at RIT that will expand her abilities in a new way.”
While Phelps was unsure who would take on her responsibility of overseeing UHS this year, he said that for now ISO will report directly to him.
As Dean of Students, Cooper has been involved with students, faculty and staff in restructuring dining services. She worked closely with many groups, including the Diversity Roundtable, Women’s Caucus, Amnesty International and Vocal Point.
“It is the personal relationships with people that I will miss the most,” she said.
Senior and Students’ Association President John LaBoda was taken aback when he learned of Cooper’s departure.
“Dean Cooper is a wonderful person,” he said. “She was very personable and extremely responsive to students. She is a valued member of our Rochester community, and it is unfortunate that she will be leaving us.
“I wish her the best of luck, and I know she will do an excellent job at RIT,” he continued.
Jody Asbury, the current Director of Interfaith Chapel, will assume most of Cooper’s current responsibilities for the remainder of the year. Asbury held the position of Associate Dean of Students for many years until 1997.
This is when Cooper, who left her role as Cheif Student Affairs Officer at St. John Fisher College, was hired to assume some of Asbury’s responsibilities when Asbury chose to take on a more active role at the Interfaith Chapel.
“Jody Asbury has had a long successful career as Associate Dean of Students,” Green said. “We’re very lucky to have someone with Jody’s background and experience who knows us, knows the institution and knows the mechanisms behind it.”
Asbury will keep her new role until The College evaluates how Student Activities and Student Affairs fit into the decentralized structure.
“There will absolutely be a Dean of Students at The College,” Green said. “But this will be a good occasion to reexamine the position and possible transition into a new structure.”
The final goodbye
Cooper will spend the next month filling her obligations so that students are not negatively impacted by the change. “Students who work directly with me are going to wonder where to go but there is a support mechanism in place,” she said. “There are other people and other leadership.”
By going to RIT, Cooper said that she plans to keep growing as she did when she came to UR from St. John Fisher. She looks forward to working with a larger student body, with the deaf population and technology students.
Green and Dean of the Faculty Thomas LeBlanc will ultimately determine the transition at UR after Cooper’s departure.
“The level of attention to student affairs and student activities will in no way diminish,” Green said.
Desai and Hildebrandt
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